A husband and wife are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Together” finds an articulate way to sprinkle in the “highlights” of what happened in the UK as it delves delicately into politics and the different perspectives, the economy, the heroes in our current world, and how all of this directly effects this couple.
To read Pam’s review in its entirety as published in the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, go to https://awfj.org/blog/2021/08/25/together-review-by-pam-powell/
“I think of you as a cancer,” She says.
“I hate your face,” He says.
So begins Stephen Daldry’s “Together,” a brilliant two-hander starring James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan as a contentious couple – only referred to as “He” and “She” – forced to cohabitate during the COVID crisis. Breaking the fourth wall throughout, one of the many techniques used to establish a sense of intimacy and relatability with the viewer, the film has the feel of a stage play, the actors throughout recounting incidents that have occurred outside the main setting. This approach not only allows a sense of familiarity to be fostered between the players and the viewer, but underscores the claustrophobia so many of us experienced during this period, the majority of the action taking place in only three rooms of the house they’re exiled in.
Beginning on March 20, 2020, the first day of England’s national lockdown, the couple – in the midst of a kinda separation – come together to take care of their son during this period of quarantine. Quick introductions ensue, consisting of them recounting the faults of the other, their criticism tinged with a begrudging degree of respect. A few minutes in and you can tell each is protesting too much where their disdain for one another is concerned, the wonderful antagonistic chemistry between McAvoy and Horgan providing a solid foundation for this exercise.
The two performers passionately recount their characters’ inner thoughts and feelings regarding their troubled past, tenuous present and uncertain future. Through two brilliant monologues and many dire conversations, we discover they have differing political views, that mushrooms play a key role in their relationship, that he begrudgingly respects her line of work – she helps refugees – while she thinks his profession – data analytics- is a sham. The only thing they seem to agree on is the care of their son. (For the record, She admits He’s very good at homeschooling.)
As we get to know them both, we can’t help but admire them even if they both at times come off as a bit privileged, a situation they become acutely aware and ashamed of over the course of this partial siege. The script by Dennis Kelly brilliantly encapsulates the entire COVID experience as the duo expresses their anger over mistakes the government’s made, the paranoia they experience over the mixed messages they get regarding masks and other precautions and the stark reality of it all when someone they love becomes infected.
McAvoy and Horgan are exceptional, each giving voice to their characters’ – and our own – frustrations, fear, and anger. When the performers are alone on screen, a connection develops between them and the viewer that’s all too rare in the movies. Whether recounting a sobering incident at the grocery with an unmasked citizen or recounting the despair felt when the disease strikes too close for comfort, the two actors powerfully drive home the emotional and human cost that’s taken its toll on us all.
Shot in 10 days, there’s an urgency to the film indicative of the times. Cathartic, heartrending and ultimately hopeful, “Together” is as much a historical document as a feature film, a spot-on chronicle that will be referenced for years to come. In the end, a sense of compassion develops between He and She, an understanding that most of us have earned a degree of kindness and understanding due to all we continue to endure. Hopefully, this is the message viewers take away and apply, after having sat through one of the best films of the year.